Just when you think horror filmmakers have run out of ideas, another twist on the genre comes around to surprise you. Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls, a slasher film that satirizes young people’s obsession with social media, is one of those movies. The idea of damsels in distress is turned on its head by magnifying the narcissistic mind-warping power of social media that soon puts in to question who is the hunter and who may be the hunted.
Tragedy Girls follows the misadventures of Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp), two high school BFFs who go on a secret killing spree while reporting on the deaths as hearsay with feigned innocence and hysteria on various online social media platforms. The two self-described “Tragedy Girls” (the name of their blog) show greater emotional attachment to cyber engagement than the real lives they take, including some lovers. The film takes the fleeting emotional satisfaction of watching the accumulation of “likes” as motivation to act callously with real life relationships. As metaphor, this stands as a witty wake-up call regarding the line between online-life and real life. It’s sociopathic behavior taken to an extreme height, but a behavior that anyone who engages in social media on a day-to-day level will instantly recognize.
The film plays mostly like a horror-comedy. At first, the girls bumble through their murders, as too often the killings come across as accidents rather than actual slayings. Their deadpan performances as they dismember the bodies reveal both their disconnection from reality while heightening the film’s off-beat humor and horror. Unfortunately, it sometimes proves a tough line to walk for MacIntyre, who co-wrote the script with Chris Lee Hill, based off an original screenplay by Justin Olson. This is a case where the writing could have benefited from a little more subtlety. With all the humor and satire, there’s hardly any sense of genuine peril for these characters. The two leads remain ciphers in their actions, and when a rift divides them, it’s hard to choose a character to root for.
Finally, No one should ever expect prime acting in a horror movie, and the performances are serviceable here, but when you have a pro like Craig Robinson appear (he is also one of the many producers of the movie), you get a taste of how to one-up the sardonic humor a notch. Overall, Tragedy Girls is a smart if tricky film, and MacIntyre and Hill deserve credit for not only finding something refreshing to say about the genre but also vital to reflect back considering the current zeitgeist.